Sunday, October 19, 2008

In his hundred years, Jacques Barzun has learned a thing or two

Jacques Barzun turns 101 this year. He still works. Go thou, and do likewise. Working -- and not retiring -- is the only sure fire thing I know of for men to not die young. Women can handle retirement. Men can't.

"Barzun is usually out of bed by 6 A.M. He brews coffee, reads the San Antonio Express-News, exercises for forty minutes, and heads down the hall to his study. After lunch, he dips into the manuscripts and books that people send him, answers letters, and takes calls from family members and friends. In the afternoon, he likes to read in the sunroom, whose white brick walls and black-and-white tiled floor accommodate without protest a mélange of armchairs and end tables of no particular style. But then all the furnishings in the house—including the art: Piranesi fortifications, Daumier scenes of Parisian life, Expressionist studies by Cleve Gray, and bright watercolors of flowers and plants by Marguerite—have an aesthetic compatibility that seems to issue more from accident than from design. Cocktails are at six-thirty (Barzun favors Manhattans); a light dinner follows, then a session with the New York Times. Barzun doesn’t watch TV and is usually in bed by nine-thirty."

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